Alexander deVaron teaches music theory and composition at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Recently he wondered what would happen if he gave himself permission to sing during formal meditation—This is what he discovered:
4 Reasons to Try Mindful Singing
Sometimes you need to break the rules. “I gave permission to break the rules a little bit. And during the practice of formal mindfulness, I wondered what it would be like if I just let myself vocalize. I think the interesting thing about this is that it’s really a process of exploration, giving one’s self-permission to explore. It’s still mindfulness practice—It’s grounded in experiencing directly the sensations of present moments without judgment or interpretation.
Maybe it’s just that—A little bit of song that changes the experience of coming back to the present, because you’re no longer just here, you’re here and singing, and that’s a game changer, I think.
Singing is a gesture of self-compassion. “The other thing that happens when we vocalize, which is important, is we’re really massaging our body from the inside out—So it really is a gesture of self-compassion. If you sit and sing, you can feel it in your chest, you can feel parts of your body vibrating, and it’s a pleasant feeling. It tends to help the muscles relax and helps the tightness and the constriction we feel when we get a lot of anxiety or stress from tension. If you take a deep breath, and then sing on the exhale, you can feel a kind of relaxation taking place.”
You don’t have to sing a happy song. “You come back [to the present moment], and you feel whatever it is you’re feeling in a complete way, you express that in song. So, if you’re sad, you can sing a sad song, if you’re happy, you sing a happy song. And it’s not a magnum opus, you know, maybe just a few notes. Maybe it’s just that—A little bit of song that changes the experience of coming back to the present because you’re no longer just here, you’re here and singing, and that’s a game changer, I think.”
Singing might help you want to meditate more. “Another thing about it, from the brain science point of view, is that singing stimulates what’s called the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain. So, you’re linking enjoyment of your life with coming back to the present. By linking [mindfulness]to pleasure, and by linking it to this deeply instinctual part of our brain, it’s then programming us to do it again. And one of the interesting things about mindfulness practice is we’re looking for ways to make mindfulness more of a habit, less of a thing that we have consciously and earnestly and kind of sometimes clumsily do and more of the very light-handed part of who we are.”